A settlement at the south coast of Singapore's northern island of
Pulau Ubin (Malay for "granite island").
Two simple and decrepit wooden houses amidst rampant thicket and
clutter. This small Kampong, close to a narrow and silted bay, has seen
better times as nature and the waste of civilisation besiege it. But
despite the dilapidation, the place has an aura of peace and quiet where
the lack of upgrading and modernisation has conserved bygone times.
Mr Chia Yeng Keng (age 85) was born on Pulau Ubin in the 1920s. Since
more than 40 years, he and his wife Mdm Chow New Phang (age 80) have
been living in that house, in which they ran a small provision shop in
times when the granite quarries were still active. Up to 6000 people
lived on the island back then.
Today there are around 100 residents left; it's getting lonesome in
the remote areas, so the Chias commute between the island and Singapore
City, where they spend some time in their son's HDB flat in the
Serangoon district. There, they get to meet friends and family and use
the amenities of a modern apartment.
About 85% of all Singaporeans live in this type of high-rise
apartment blocks (known as HDBs - Housing Development Board flats), a
result of the government's efforts to solve the housing problem in 1960s
post-independence Singapore. The Kampong dwellers were systematically
resettled, modernising the city's landscape and changing community life
Every 10 days, the Chias travel through time – retracing
Singapore's changes of the last decades in just a couple of hours, from
the old village lifestyle to modern life in an urban built environment.